Draught Diversions: Oktoberfest 2017

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

Oktoberfest…is there any time of year that is more of a beer holiday? I don’t think so. Sure there are beers for every season and every occasion, but few times throughout the year does beer, across the world, have such a spotlight shone upon it. As with many great beer-related traditions, this one goes back to Munich, Bavaria, Germany in 1810. What began as a celebration of the marriage of then Prince and soon King Ludwig to Princess Therese expanded to something that is a global celebration of German culture and Gemütlichkeit two hundred years later. With Okoberfest 2017 beginning this weekend, September 16 [ends October 3], what better time for a little post about the great German celebration?

From Wikipedia:

Only beer conforming to the Reinheitsgebot, and brewed within the city limits of Munich, can be served at the Munich Oktoberfest. Beers meeting these criteria are designated Oktoberfest Beer. The breweries that can produce Oktoberfest Beer under the aforementioned criteria are:
Augustiner-Bräu
Hacker-Pschorr-Bräu
Löwenbräu
Paulaner
Spatenbräu
Staatliches Hofbräu-München

Oktoberfest Beer is a registered trademark by the Club of Munich Brewers, which consists of the above six breweries.

From those breweries, the only Oktoberfest beer I haven’t had is the one brewed by Augustiner-Bräu.

I suppose one way you could view this is similar to sparkling wine and Champagne in that only the sparkling wine from Champagne, France can truly be considered Champagne. Only those six brewers make “True Oktoberfest” beer.

There are many, many more Märzen/Oktoberfest/Festbiers available, brewed by German breweries and American breweries alike. Last year (in 2016) the Oktoberfest that I enjoyed the most was Ayinger’s so I’m probably going to get some of that this year. I almost always get at least a six pack of the Hacker-Pschorr and really want to pick up some of Weihenstephaner’s Festbier since I haven’t had theirs in a couple of years.

Then we get to the American Oktoberfest beers and boy is there a variety as it seems most mid level craft brewers have a fall Oktoberfest offering and even some of the local nano-breweries in New Jersey are brewing up the traditional Lager style of the beer.

As of this writing, I’ve only had two Oktoberfest beers so far in 2017 and I usually try to push off having any until after Labor Day. I may have ranted about that in the past.

The first I had was Sierra Nevada’s collaboration with Brauhaus Miltenburger, which was quite good. I like this annual tradition, you get a new version of the Oktoberfest every year, but with the Sierra Nevada brand, chances are it will be a good Oktoberfest.  This was the third year Sierra Nevada collaborated with a German brewery on an Oktobefest, rthe first was in 2015 with Brauhaus Riegele and last year’s (2016) was Mahrs Bräu.

The other was Two Roads’ offering, Ok2berfest which was a great interpretation of the style. I was not surprised considering I’ve enjoy just about everything from Two Roads, but I’d never had theirs in the past.

Annual American Favorites

The best Oktoberfest from an American brewery, for my drinking dollar every year, is Great Lakes Oktoberfest. The great Cleveland brewery doesn’t make a bad beer and their portfolio of beers is one of the most consistent in the American craft brew landscape Their Oktoberfest is an annual must for me, as it perfectly captures the malty, caramelly essence of a Märzen lager. Despite their size and distribution reach, Yuengling is still considered a micro brewery and their Oktoberfest is usually a very dependable, solid offering. It is ubiquitous this time of year in the Northeast and family and friends usually have this one in their fridge.

Victory Brewing’s Festbier is worth getting every year, too. That shouldn’t be a surprise coming from me at this point, if you’ve been reading The Tap Takeover every week. Local NJ Craft Brewer Ramstein / High Point Brewing makes a very good Oktoberfest, considering the strong German roots and basis for their approach to brewing, this is a natural beer for them to make.

Oktoberfest Beers to Try in 2017 for the First Time

From NJ breweries there are three I’d like to try. My friends at Flounder are brewing up an Oktobefest I’m hoping to sample in the next couple of weeks. Czig Meister in Hackettstown released an Oktoberfest this year and they’ve really been making a big push with cans into distribution so hopefully that’ll show up locally. Lone Eagle has one they’ve named “My Favorite Marzen” which on the name alone seems worth trying.

Outside of breweries in NJ, I really want to try Firestone Walker’s Oaktoberfest. I’ve only had excellent beers from the popular California craft brewery so I’ve got high hopes for this beer. Unfortunately this will only be a limited draft offering in 2017. With von Trapp’s beers entering the NJ Market, I would like to try theirs as well, considering the German brewing tradition behind the brewery.  For all the beers I’ve enjoyed over the years from Harpoon, I’ve never had their Oktoberfest.  I haven’t seen their beers as widely available in NJ as I did a few years ago.

I usually try to get to at least one Oktoberfest celebration every year.  A local restaurant has a big outdoor celebration every year, but it seems to get earlier and earlier every year. This year, I’m likely going to a mountain retreat for a big outdoor Oktoberfest celebration.

So, with that, a safe and enjoyable Oktoberfest to you all. Or as my ancestors say (mom was born in Germany!),

Ein prosit und Gemütlichkeit!

Draught Diversions: Bacon and Beer Classic Philadelphia

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and non-review posts here at the Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

With the growing popularity of Craft Beer by drinkers and the proliferation of smaller/micro/craft breweries across the country, beer festivals seem to happen every weekend. At least throughout the New Jersey/Pennsylvania/New York area, I think it averages out to one beer festival per weekend through October. (While some weekends don’t have any beer festivals, there are multiple weekends where multiple festivals are held).

This past weekend, I (along with my wife, brother-in-law, and his girlfriend) attended the Bacon and Beer Classic in Philadelphia. This was held at the end of Philly Beer week (June 1 to 11). The B and B Classic is nationwide festival held in various cities, one is being held at Citifield in New York, Soldier Field in Chicago last October,  and Safeco Field in Seattle a few months ago, among others. I’ve attended quite a few beer festivals (The Garden State Brew Festival for the past five years, a couple of others in Philadelphia), but this was the first that was more than beer. In the end, that uniqueness compared to the other festivals I attended was what set this one apart. I also really like the taster “glass” we were given, it looks like a red Solo Cup but is made of I’m guessing ceramic.

The festival was held at Schmidt’s Commons, sit of the old Schmidt Brewery. Urban Village Brewing Company, a brewpub that had opened it’s doors a week prior to the festival, is conveniently located at the commons. Dan Goldman, founder of the brewery, was pouring beer: Beach Day Belgian Blonde, which set the bar for the festival and a fantastic Oatmeal Stout. Dan also happened to be on Al Gatullo’s Craft Beer cast a couple of weeks ago.

Next up was the Iron Hart Brewing tent and boy was I surprised with Industrial Lager, the lager they were pouring. I can’t recall tasting a lager with such a pleasant malt/caramel profile. It still maintained the characteristics of the lager, but the higher malt was a nice balance. Also in that immediate area of the Commons was Shiner, pouring their Homespun Cream Ale which was very pedestrian. Root Down was pouring a style not many brewers are making – an Altbier they call 3 Legged Rabbit, which was a nice surprise. Their Pale Wheat, Slag was on the hoppy end for Pale Wheats.

Harpoon was one of the non-Pennsylvania breweries in attendance and they were pouring their UFO Witbier and Camp Wannamango, their Pale Wheat Ale with Mango. I’d had UFO plenty of times previously so passed on it to save room for other beers, but I did go for the Camp Wannamango only once before, so I wanted to give a try on draft. What a wonderful summer beer, the mango is a perfect addition for flavor and sweetness, but not too much sweetness. I need to stock my cooler with this over the summer.

Next to them was venerable PA brewery Weyerbacher, pouring the blonde Mellow Monks (which I’ve had before and enjoyed) and Line Street Pilsner which is a nice crisp pilsner well-suited to summer. Next to them was Green Flash Brewing, pouring an IPA (I passed) and Passion Fruit Kicker, a wheat ale with Passion Fruit. Sweet and tart, the beer borders on sour, but seems well-suited to warm weather.

I made my way to another non-PA brewery after that, Peak Organic Brewing Company from Maine. They were pouring two beers, Summer Session Ale and Fresh Cut. Summer Session Ale is similar to Founders’ All Day IPA but the wheat base cuts the bite of the hops, which is quite welcome. Fresh Cut is the brewery’s flagship beer, a wonderful Pilsner that I wish was available in NJ. It is everything a Pilsner should be for my beer drinking sensibilities, but with slightly less hop bitterness

Out in the center of the commons, Twin Lakes poured an IPA (I passed) and Caesar Rodney Golden Ale a slightly hopped Blonde. One of my favorite breweries, also a non-PA brewery, Great Lakes Brewing was pouring two beers, their Commodore Perry IPA and Turntable Pils, a tasty Pilsner.

Guinness was there pouring some of their staples, including a new Irish Wheat, which  was a surprisingly tasty Witbier. I say surprising because their American Blonde is not very drinkable. The only NJ brewery at the festival was Forgotten Boardwalk, I had another try of their Funnel Cake a tasty, but almost too sweet cream ale. Lagunitas, from Californa, was pouring their Pils which is a passable Pilser, but like many of their beers, the hop profile is strong and doesn’t quite sync up with my taste buds.

There’s usually at least one cidery at most of these beer festivals and this was no different – Jack’s Hard Cider  was pouring an Apple Hard Cider and Peach Cider. I can’t recall ever seeing Peach cider, but this was really tasty. The Peach was a nice sweet addition to the apple base.

I closed out my beer tastings with two from venerable Philadelphia brewery Saint Benjamin’s Brewing Company. I’ve had their Wit or Witout in the past, but during that session, they were pouring Franklin’s Abbey Dubbel, a Belgian Dubbel and quite good and Inca a cream ale. I think I’ll need to visit this brew pub on a future visit to Philadelphia.

One food guy was grilling up sliders which were great. Hormel, one of the main sponsors, was giving out what seemed to be all varieties of their bacon (about 6 or 8 in total) and some delicious pork belly. Some other bacon samplings included bacon wrapped hush puppies, bacon/fish tasters, fried bacon mac and cheese, and bacon topped waffles.

While I didn’t have quite as many different beers at this festival as I have at other festivals (over 35 at this past year’s Garden State Brewfest), the quality was very good across the 18 I did have. Also, plenty of bacon samples and bacon infused/dishes. I’d definitely give this one another try, maybe even in New York next year as the event is held in many locations.